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Bail refused South Armagh man accused of hijacking woman’s car and dragging her as she clung on

His defence said: 'The charges that he faces are strongly contested and Mr Ward is entitled to a presumption of innocence'

A South Armagh man accused of hijacking a vehicle and driving off with the female owner still holding on has been denied bail.

John Ward, 37, of Dobson’s Way in Bessbrook, appeared at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Lisburn, via videolink from police custody on Wednesday.

The defendant faces charges of hijacking, burglary, going equipped for burglary, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place, handling stolen goods and criminal damage.

Outlining the case, a detective constable stated that on May 17 at 2.15pm a white Audi A4 was rammed from behind by a black Audi A4 on Stapleton Drive in Dundalk.

When the woman driver got out to check the damage, the driver of the black car, alleged to be the defendant, got out of the passenger seat of the black car into the white car’s driver side after a struggle.

He then proceeded to drive away with the female clinging on for around a minute, with the black Audi driven off by the other driver, the court heard.

The alleged incident was captured on CCTV from a nearby estate agents, which showed the male who hijacked the vehicle wearing a “distinctive” black and grey hoodie.

Then on May 19, between 11am and 3pm, a burglary was reported at an address on Keery Road near Strabane.

A witness claimed to have seen three males acting suspiciously in a white Audi A4, near the address at this time. A photo provided to police showed the car they believe to be that stolen two days earlier with false plates.

This same witness claimed to have spoken to one of the males, and court was told a description given appeared to match that of Ward.

A second witness also claimed to have seen a white car in the vicinity at the time. Court heard “golden jewellery” was taken from the address and nobody was home at the time.

At 11pm that same day, police on patrol of Garvaghy Park, Portadown located the stolen Audi near an address at which the defendant was residing at that time, and it once more had a different set of plates.

Inside the vehicle, police found a large axe in a passenger footwell and tools including a wrench.

During a search of Ward’s address, the keys to the stolen vehicle were allegedly found in the front garden.

On May 26, police located the black Audi which they believed was used in the hijacking incident close to the defendant’s permanent bail address on Dobson’s Way in Bessbrook.

The detective said this was a particular 1998 model of the car which had 10-spoke alloys fitted.

Court was informed a search of Ward’s home resulted in police locating a black and grey hoodie which they state matched that of the item of clothing worn by the hijacker in Dundalk.

On June 8, dash cam footage prior to the hijacking was shown to a member of the Gardai. They had known the defendant since 2009 and court was told they were able to positively identify him in the black Audi car.

Ward was arrested on June 9 and made no comment during interview.

Whilst in custody, the detective claimed the defendant had ripped off his G4S electronic tag and had thrown it at her.

She told the court police were objecting to bail due to concerns that Ward would reoffend and not abide by bail conditions.

It was revealed that the defendant is currently on High Court bail for attempted murder, possessing a firearm, affray and hijacking which related to an alleged incident between two Traveller families last October.

Defence solicitor John Rocks explained that Ward had been wounded during this incident. He had been in custody until he had to be rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital for surgery in January.

He stated: “Whilst he was in Maghaberry, he was not receiving the appropriate treatment. There is no note of a stoma nurse visit and this we say is a serious flaw in the prison’s medical care.

“Whilst in the community he has been attending with his GP. He will continue to receive treatment and the situation has been monitored.”

Mr Rocks added: “The charges that he faces are strongly contested and Mr Ward is entitled to a presumption of innocence.

“I would like to apologise for his behaviour in custody. He was frustrated at being arrested for something which he denies.”

District Judge Nigel Broderick stated: “This is not a trial, he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. I believe there is sufficient evidence to connect him to these serious matters and the ongoing investigation.

“He has an extensive record and is on High Court bail for similar serious offence. I understand that there are ongoing medical issues but it would appear the acute phase of the treatment has passed.

“There is a risk of further offences and it would appear there are no conditions which would assuage these police concerns.”

Bail was refused and the case was adjourned to July 3.

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